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Full text of "A search in secret Egypt"

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH!                 131
or within those covered arcades, they might remember the shelter of God or indulge in the luxury of dreams; at any rate, they could, if they wished, find here a pleasant place whence to view the city's activities in perspective and whence to take an inventory of life at its true valuation. I savoured subtly the ancient peace of this place.
At the entrance to this vast cloister I took off my slippers, for it was rightly ordained that none may walk with booted feet upon the sacred soil of a mosque and there deposit the unwelcome dirt of streets. I handed the slippers to a mosque attendant who emerged from a darkened room, descended a flight of stone steps whose flat surfaces had been worn into curves by the tread of hundreds of thousands of pious feet, and emerged once more in the narrow crowded lane.
I walked a few paces away and stopped, turning to view the face and setting of this old building consecrated to the worship of Allah. It seemed a pity that part of the long frontal wall was hidden behind a row of old houses, but ample compensation remained in the sight of the towering minarets and the great heavy dome, the gleaming bulbous cupolas and the high latticed windows; and, lastly, the enormous and elaborate entrance gates.
Those minarets had no less than eight sides each, as well as three balconies, and they soared upwards out of their square bases on the mosque as thoughts and aspiration soared upwards within the mosque itself. They were like two tall, rosy fingers pointing to the sky. The cupolas had flattened tops and queedy resembled gigantic white turbans in comparison with the immense coloured central dome. They gleamed, as I watched them, in the blazing sun until my eyes smarted in the glare. The battlemented wall-tops stretched themselves out to form a perfect square. The high buff and red walls shut out our world of business and barter.
My eyes looked down again. Here in the street, sellers of sweetmeats, of Turkish delight and flat cakes, lined both sides of the entrance, displaying their offerings upon tiny, temporary tables, or even upon cloth laid on the bare sidewalk itself. The stall-keepers sat patiently awaiting their occasional customers with an expression of placid contentment. A few beggars